This tree is one of the so-called 'lilly pillys', but unlike most lilly pillys, it is not an inhabitant of rainforests. It has large, broad, lime green leathery leaves (suborbiculare literally means "almost round", referring to the leaves) and a flaky bark. An unusual feature of this tree is that it has a lignotuber: an underground storage organ which allows it to regenerate following fire or being chopped down, much like a eucalyptus tree. Being fairly drought and salt tolerant, it is common through Australian savannah woodland and on the edge of coastal floodplain growing in sandy soil.
The flowers are huge white brushes of long white stamens, which are short-lived, but nevertheless very spectacular. The fruits have to be the biggest attraction. In harsh, windswept areas the fruits are not much bigger than 1-1.5 inch in diameter, but under the right conditions are nearly 4 inch! They are dark blood red in color and strongly ribbed, unlike most lilly pillys. The flesh is firm and crunchy and can easily be broken away from the single large seed. The flesh has a sharp pleasant tang and is greatly revered by all bush travelers who know it. Apart from eating huge numbers of fruit, Aborigines are known to use the fruit for colds and chest congestion and squeeze the juice and pulp into their ears to relieve earache.
Because of its ability to tolerate salt spray, drought and fire, while giving good shade, beautiful flowers and exquisite fruit, this tree should be seen more often in cultivation, especially in the dry tropics.